Blogging the War: Time for Diplomacy?

by Brian on July 21, 2006

in In the News,Living Through Terror,War with Hezbollah

This article was posted on on Thursday, July 20, 2006. The link is here.

When is the time right for diplomacy vs. ripe for war?

announcement on Wednesday that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
was coming to the region as early as this coming Sunday was quickly
qualified as being “premature.” The visit, which was set in motion
during the same expletive-tinged presumed-to-be off-microphone comments
by President Bush to British Prime Minister Blair at the G-8 Summit
earlier in the week, has now been downgraded as a more of a “stop over”
on the way to Asia rather than a full-fledged peace-seeking initiative.Which
is good news for Israel: as the war with Hezbollah enters its ninth
day, the time is far from right for outside parties to start trying to
broker a cease-fire.

How do we know it’s too early for a
cease-fire? Because Syrian President Bashar Assad is asking for one. So
has the European Union.

Because French Prime Minster Chirac has traveled to the region to ask for concessions “from both sides.”

because Hezbollah, despite Israel’s continued bombardment of its rocket
launchers and fortified bunkers, is showing as Ha’aretz commentator
Amos Harel wrote on Thursday, “no signs of breaking.”

difficult days ahead are evident in what one commentator called the
“epic battle” between Israeli forces and Hezbollah along the border on
Wednesday where two Israeli soldiers were killed.

In addition
to stockpiling up to 15,000 missiles of various types and ranges,
Hezbollah has apparently taken a page out straight out of Osama Bin
Laden’s Afghanistan playbook and has been digging and fortifying
underground bunkers along the whole of the Israel-Lebanese border.

looked to Israel’s eyes in the sky to be abandoned bunkers turned out
to be filled with Hezbollah troops laying in wait to ambush the Israeli
ground troops as they approached. The battle for the bunkers is still
raging today and far from over. Along with the attack on an Israeli
naval ship off the Lebanese coast by an Iranian-made missile that
Israel didn’t know Hezbollah had, this may be one of the “surprises”
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has promised Israel.

All this
underscores the need for Israel to be given the time it needs to
complete its goal of significantly weakening – if not outright
destroying – Hezbollah. A visit by Secretary Rice too soon would serve
as a sign for Israel and the region that the window of opportunity to
act military was closing.

The White House apparently agrees.
“A ceasefire that will leave the status quo ante intact is
unacceptable,” White House spokesman Tony Snow said on Tuesday. Rice
echoed those statements. “We all want a cessation of violence,” she
said. “We all want the protection of civilians, but we have to make
certain that anything we do will be of lasting value.”

contrast in international attitude with 2002’s Operation Defensive
Shield is striking. In April 2002, after a month that saw hundreds of
Israelis killed in suicide bombs nearly every day – including the
horrific Passover massacre at the Park Hotel in Netanya – Israel sent
forces into the West Bank, Jenin in particular, to crush the terrorist

It was only a few days into the operation that
President Bush demanded that Israel “withdraw without delay. I don’t
expect them to ignore [the message], I expect them to heed the call.”
Israel ultimately managed to significantly reduce the success rate of
the suicide bombers, bringing the country several years of relative

Why the difference in approach? Perhaps it is easier to
give broader latitude to actions of “self defense” in a war against an
enemy firing missiles at a civilian population than it is to fight back
against terrorists blowing themselves up on buses and in cafes. While
the two have the same goal – to destroy “normal” life among the general
population – the spin on the latter tends to portray suicide bombing as
“inevitable” and sometimes even “justifiable” by a downtrodden and
hopeless population. Hezbollah, on the other hand, with its
fortifications and massive munitions stores, seems anything but weak.

Israeli novelist Etgar Keret wrote in Tuesday’s New York Times, there
has been almost an “unconscious breath of relief” in the current
situation. “It’s not that we Israelis long for war or death or grief…we
long for a real war to take the place of all those exhausting years of
intifada when there was no black or white, only gray, when we were
confronted not by armed forces, but by resolute young people wearing
explosive belts…”

When this war is over, Hamas may be perceived
to have made a fatal strategic error. By launching Kassam rockets and
not suicide bombers from Gaza into Sderot and Ashkelon, there no longer
seems any difference between the home-grown Palestinian terror group
and Hezbollah. And the response by the Israeli army is looking pretty
much the same on both fronts.

All of this is not to say that
diplomacy does not have a role. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
told a U.N. negotiating team that arrived in the region Tuesday that in
fact “the time for diplomacy has arrived.” But the start of the
diplomatic process did not mean the end of military operations, Livni
added, rather the two would run in parallel.

“The military
objectives are to hit Hezbullah’s infrastructure and physical
strength,” Livni said. “The diplomatic process is not intended to
reduce the time available for the IDF’s operations but as an extension
of it in order to avoid the need for additional operations in the

In the end, both sides know that this military conflict
must be resolved through diplomatic means. The only question is when.
David Horowitz, writing in the Jerusalem Post this week, speculates
that Hezbollah won’t be forced into “any kind of public surrender, but
rather it will be battered sufficiently to enable its demise as a
military force to be formalized by the diplomats.”

At this
point, it appears the war with Hezbollah has at least another week, and
probably more, to run before those diplomats will be sitting down to
formalize anything.



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